Businesses around the globe are focused more than ever on reducing carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality.
Businesses around the globe are focused more than ever on reducing their carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality. Climate change has been affecting the world in negative ways for decades now—centuries even—and as a result, we’re faced with a depleted environment and harmful weather conditions such as prolonged droughts, severe flooding, and extreme heatwaves. So, for businesses, the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality rests in the ability to create eco-friendly, sustainable business practices.
In broader terms, becoming carbon neutral means striving to create a zero-waste path for your business, implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) into regular workplace practices, using sustainable packaging materials whenever and wherever possible, planting trees and focusing on reusable energy (if you have the means), and participating in a healthy circular economy. And all these carbon-neutral checkpoints must be hit while remaining cost-effective and avoiding the shameful practice of greenwashing.
So, how are businesses today achieving carbon neutrality? What do we recommend if you want to become more carbon neutral? And what do things like “circular economy,” “greenwashing,” and “corporate social responsibility” even mean? Let’s take a comprehensive look at everything and anything to do with carbon neutrality.
Carbon neutrality is a term that has been tossed around for the past several decades—and for good reason. In 2006, Oxford Dictionary even declared “carbon neutral” to be their word of the year in the United States. But before we dive into more of the specifics of carbon neutrality, let’s break down what being carbon neutral actually means.
Fighting climate change and achieving carbon neutrality is something we, the global community, must all work at collectively. And doing so begins with creating eco-friendly practices, reducing our carbon footprint, and adopting an altogether carbon neutral mindset.
So, put in the simplest of terms: Being carbon neutral refers to our ability to absorb as much of the carbon as we emit in order to hit our target of net zero emissions. (Net zero means we are completely negating our greenhouse gas emissions—global experts state that this target must be reached by the year 2050). To achieve this goal, businesses (and even you at home!) have to invest in carbon offsets as a practical and cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions.
Carbon offsetting can take various forms, specifically in the shape of sustainable business practices, creating a zero-waste path, and using more sustainable packaging materials. It can also take form in the shape of renewable energy resources and an intense focus on forestry and conservation. There are truly so many ways we can all commit to being carbon neutral.
Before we talk about how your business can work towards reducing its carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality, let’s discuss a couple more terms you might want to familiarize yourself with. To begin, we’ll look at what “the circular economy” is.
When talking about carbon neutrality, it’s important to understand what the circular economy is and how it works. First and foremost, working towards a circular economy means creating and adopting a more eco-friendly mindset for your business or lifestyle at home. The circular economy, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, focuses on three main principles:
Sounds a lot like the reduce, reuse, recycle method, right? But the truth is that it’s a lot more calculated and thought out, with a far more diligent strategy. And it was an idea that was hatched with carbon neutrality specifically in mind.
Focusing on creating a circular economy can give us the tools to tackle climate change and more effectively reach our goal of a carbon-neutral world. So, make sure it’s a term that becomes well-known within the walls of your company.
Zero waste is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a global philosophy that promotes conservation programs, reusing, and recycling in order to reduce our waste to a minimum and achieve carbon neutrality. Waste is, by far, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The more waste we contribute to society, the worse our carbon footprint will be.
For a sustainable business looking to reduce its carbon footprint and create a zero-waste path, this could mean using sustainable packaging materials, using fewer toxic materials during production and manufacturing stages, or making your products more durable in the long run while simultaneously keeping them cost-effective.
Now that we’ve got some loose terms related to carbon neutrality out of the way, let’s start to focus on how your business can create and sustain a carbon neutral philosophy. It starts and ends with implanting a model of corporate social responsibility.
In the simplest of terms, corporate social responsibility is a sustainable business model in which companies work towards enhancing and benefiting society and the environment rather than degrading it. If in 2022, your company still has not leaned into the model of corporate social responsibility, you might as well be operating in a different decade.
A key to corporate social responsibility is minimizing your carbon footprint while simultaneously keeping things cost-effective. Also, if you do decide to shift towards carbon neutrality within your business (as you should) and incorporate a model of corporate social responsibility, you must do so without greenwashing. (We’ll discuss greenwashing a bit more later.)
Now we arrive at the big questions. How can your company work towards a goal of achieving carbon neutrality? How can you reduce your carbon footprint, contribute to reducing greenhouse gases, and become a more eco-friendly and sustainable business—all while keeping things cost-effective?
As mentioned, your company should strive toward creating an environment focused on corporate social responsibility. This will instill a mindset of being carbon neutral into the hearts and souls of your employees, and it will let your consumer base know that you’re prioritizing carbon neutrality in any and every regard. You must consistently reinforce the idea of a circular economy and a zero-waste path within your business as well, as those two ideas both focus on creating a carbon neutral business. That being said, there are some other ways to focus on carbon neutrality that we’ve yet to discuss.
One immediate practice we recommend is switching over to sustainable packaging materials. (For those of you who might not know, sustainable packaging means the sourcing and production of packaging materials that reduce our carbon footprint and cause minimal damage to our ecosystems). This is an easy practice to adopt and usher into your company if you wish to create an eco-friendlier, carbon neutral environment.
Some prime examples of sustainable packaging materials to introduce into your company and everyday life include:
Not only are all these options for packaging smarter and better for achieving our goal of carbon neutrality, but they are also in many cases cost-effective.
While shifting towards a mindset of carbon neutrality within your company, we also recommend measuring your carbon offset emissions as much as possible. By doing so, you can pinpoint the areas where you’re negatively impacting the environment, and then work towards offsetting your carbon footprint.
Another thing we suggest, which has already been mentioned slightly, is to spread the word about carbon neutrality! Chant the words “carbon neutral” to all those who will listen. You want your consumer base, staff, and any current or potential stakeholders of your company to realize that you’re focused on carbon neutrality. Doing so is good for your brand, image, and for the environment.
Speaking of which …
There are many organizations around the globe that claim to be reducing their carbon footprint and adopting carbon neutral business practices, when in reality they are not. This is a shameful practice that many environmentalists have noticed large corporations participating in. It is called greenwashing. Businesses that greenwash will state they are focused on being eco-friendly, that they care about contributing to a circular economy—but the truth is, they are not. Or at least, they are not nearly as eco-friendly and committed to carbon neutrality as they claim to be.
As recently as 2021, businesses such as Windex, Ryanair, IKEA, Shell, and Nestle have been accused of greenwashing. More specifically, these businesses have been accused of insincere sustainability reports, false claims of low emissions and reduced carbon footprints, misleading claims about plastic and packaging reduction, and more.
Greenwashing is a terrible look, and not something that a sustainable business would do. If you want to contribute to carbon neutrality, make sure you are talking the talk and walking the walk.
Striving for carbon neutrality doesn’t stop the moment you leave the office. Reducing your carbon footprint and returning our world to its eco-friendly glory should also be something you practice at home, within the means of your day-to-day life.
Focus on renewable energy in whatever capacity you can. Drive your car to work less, instead opting to ride your bike. Research companies that have a history of greenwashing—so you know who to avoid and who to buy from instead.
Aside from that, seek out companies that use sustainable packaging materials and who are committed to reducing the global carbon footprint. Research these companies to ensure their methods are eco-friendly and their packaging is truly sustainable, and that they too are advocates of carbon neutrality.
Keep yourself updated, too! Research any terms other terms relating to carbon neutrality that you might be unfamiliar with. Head online and see if there are new recommendations for how you can contribute to a more circular economy at home. Guidelines and recommendations are always changing—if you want proof of that, just look at how often recycling recommendations are altered in the city you live in.
With that, you know much of what there is to know about becoming carbon neutral. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens with a full commitment to living an eco-friendly life and, over time, reducing your carbon footprint.
If you’re trying to shift your company over to being more sustainable and focusing more on carbon neutrality, you must strive to create a zero-waste path for your business, implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) into regular workplace practices, and use sustainable packaging materials whenever and wherever possible. You can also donate to organizations that plant trees or focus on spreading awareness for carbon neutrality, commit to using reusable energy whenever and wherever possible, and regularly focus on participating in a healthy circular economy.
And don’t leave this mindset at the office. Let it follow you home and become part of your regular day-to-day lifestyle. The more you focus on carbon neutrality, the better a place our world will become.